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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Growing Up: The Future of Vertical Farming

Country in the city:

According to Despommier, traditional agricultural production requires too much land, too much water, and far too many pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. Irrigating farmland consumes 70 percent of our fresh water, he writes, and the runoff that results from this irrigation “is by far the world’s most damaging source of pollution.” Forsaking synthetic pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers is one response to this problem, but organic farming produces less food than chemical farming does, and even chemical farming won’t be able to yield enough food for the world as it adds another 3 billion hungry mouths over the next 40 years. To feed them using current techniques, we’d need a land-mass the size of Brazil, Despommier asserts, and in his estimation “that amount of additional arable land simply does not exist.”

Cool. But is it economical? The fixed costs of skyscraper farming are pretty high. Unfortunately the article doesn't really get into the financial details of vertical farming.

Posted by Richard Anderson on November 25, 2010 | Permalink


It's all about the energy costs. Currently tomatoes grown in green houses in the Fraser valley out sell those grown in Mexican soil, not from lower cost but from being a fresher and tastier product. Green houses are horizontal rather than vertical, run on natural gas for heat and CO2 and maximize solar light. I think the author vastly underestimates the solar energy available and required for such an enterprise even ignoring fixed costs of real estate and sci-fi building materials.

Posted by: John Chittick | 2010-11-25 12:35:54 PM

Did this guy ever attempted to make a living growing stuff?

Posted by: Manny | 2010-11-27 6:33:41 AM

"Another 3 billion hungry mouths" ? Not sustainable. I think human population is more likely to decrease. The working class can no longer afford to feed the begging class. Besides, many of the beggers are perfectly capable of feeding themselves, but they're just too lazy. If Africa were populated by Europeans, it would be the richest continent on earth. Everybody knows that, but no one wants to admit it.

Posted by: dp | 2010-11-27 6:51:15 AM

The next war should bring this back to manageable size. Have you noticed that all through history major recessions are always followed by major wars ?

Posted by: peterj | 2010-11-27 6:44:33 PM

Manny, you are on to something. Despommier sounds like your typical "expert" or rather university professor. I am always rather amused when the MSM trot one of them out to comment on crime, prisons, the economy or whatever. They don't have a lick of practical hands-on experience but do love to claim to know it all.

Posted by: Alain | 2010-11-28 6:27:12 PM

but do love to claim to know it all.

Posted by: Alain | 2010-11-28 6:27:12 PM

You are so right. I enjoy it even more when two experts have opposing views on the same subject. Have seen that several times on climate change. We may have to re-define the word to give it some credibility.

Posted by: peterj | 2010-11-28 11:46:44 PM

Peter, I was once given the definition of an "expert", and if my memory serves me correctly it was a small drip of water under pressure. I always remember that and smile to myself when the media trot out an "expert".

Posted by: Alain | 2010-11-29 6:05:37 PM

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